Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Characters from "The Journey to the West" by Gene Luen Yang

It takes longer, I guess, for news to reach Alaska, but I was delighted to learn that Gene Luen Yang was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (aka the "Genius Grant") back in September. Gene is the author/illustrator of the graphic novels "American-Born Chinese" and "Boxers and Saints".   In "American-Born Chinese", Gene weaves together his own journey as an Asian-American immigrant struggling to find his place in America with the classic Chinese novel, "The Journey to the West", which features the Monkey-King and his companions the Buddhist monk Tripitika, Pigsy and Sandy. 

Chinese Opera Characters from "Boxers and Saints"
In his 2013 graphic novel, "Boxers and Saints" he tells the story of the Boxer Uprising at the turn of the 20th century 
in two separate but linked volumes.  The first is the story of how a young peasant became a leader of those fighting against the foreigners dominating Ching dynasty China as well as Chinese who had converted to Christianity.  The second is the story of a young woman who becomes a Christian and her eventual fate as a martyr. 

As a graphic novelists, who is both Chinese-American and a Catholic, Gene had a unique perspective that enabled him to sympathetically tell both the story of the Yihetuan - Militia United in Righteousness, (the"Boxers" of the title) and the "Saints", those Chinese Catholics who were put to death in the uprising (and eventually canonized as some of the 120 men and women declared to be "Martyr Saints of China" by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Back in 2007 Gene attended a retreat I did in Berkeley on praying with icons and we got to know each other a little bit.  Someday I hope we'll have a chance to visit again in person.  Maybe he'll come to Alaska.

In the meantime, congratulations, Gene!  I'm looking forward to seeing what you will be able to accomplish in 2017 and beyond!